Sunday, October 7, 2007

Purpose of the Work

Elder Heber J. Grant European Mission President with family 1905

For what purpose is the gospel preached? To bring people to a knowledge of the truth and as a witness before the end of the world shall come or the end of wickedness. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1946, p. 157).

After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel. (Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, 2:478).

Go out and preach the work. The first obligation laid upon this Church, even before it was organized, was the obligation to go out and teach the gospel. That obligation has never been lifted. It has been with us ever since. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Columbia, South Carolina Missionary meeting, 20 November 2004 in Ensign, [February 2007]: 4–8).

May we emphasize again that numbers are incidental and secondary to our main purpose, which is the same as that of our Heavenly Father--to bring to every soul the gospel which can open the doors to eternal life for man. Our objective is not for power or domain, but totally spiritual. And to every nation and people which opens its borders to the gospel will come unbelievable blessings. (Spencer W. Kimball, "When the World will be Converted," Ensign, [October 1974]: 12).

The Lord has caused Israel to mix with the nations and bring the Gentiles within the blessings of the seed of Abraham. We are preaching the gospel now in all parts of the world, and for what purpose? To gather out from the Gentile nations the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is by this scattering that the Gentile nations have been blessed, and if they will truly repent they are entitled to all the blessings promised to Israel, “which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. by Joseph Fielding Smith, 5 Vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 2:57).

Our mission in this Church is twofold. We must call all people to repentance, and those who hearken unto our words teach the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Henry D. Moyle, Conference Report, April 1955, p. 70).

Our neighbor is not alone the man who lives next door to us; but every soul that needs help, who needs comfort and blessing, is our neighbor. It is because this spirit is in the hearts of the people that year after year missionaries are sent to the various parts of the world to preach this gospel of the kingdom. (Abraham H. Cannon, "Charity For All," Deseret Weekly [Saturday, 8 September 1894]: 355).

It is hard, very hard indeed, to make the blind to see or the deaf to hear; and it is a truth laid down in the doctrines of the Gospel as taught to the ancient Nephites upon this continent, that there are none so blind as those who will not see, and there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. There are those who will not see and who will not hear, and it is vain to attempt to open their eyes, for they will to keep them shut. It is vain that we attempt to open their ears to hear, for they have closed their ears against the everlasting truth and they will not hear it. What are we to do under such circumstances as these? Are we to grieve about it? Shall we slacken our effort in the least because these conditions exist in the world? Shall we turn back from the plough to which we have put our hand because there are those in the world that will not see the truth and will not hear the voice of the Spirit of God calling them to repentance and to obey the commandments of the Lord? Verily no! He would be a weak and vacillating and unprofitable servant who would turn away from righteousness because there are those who will not repent of their sins and turn unto righteousness. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, 3 April 1904).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains an army of missionaries to interpret and vitalize Christianity and to interpret the teachings of Christ in terms of the living. It is the purpose of these missionaries to bring the interpretations of the Christian faith to mankind, so that mankind may avail themselves of the great blessings which Christ designed for them. The endeavor [gives] distinctive interpretations which are not common in the world of religion and theology. (Stephen L. Richards, Deseret News, [Saturday, 27 April 1929]: Sec. 3, p. V).

We continue to desire the growth of the Church, and we are pleased, but not overwhelmed, with the progress being made. We look to the day when Zion can be fully built, but the Lord reminds us: "But first let my army become very great." (D&C 105:31.)

And that, of course, refers to the missionaries, which army is growing, but also to the people of the Church which army isn't growing quite so fast.

The Lord wants us to grow numerically and eventually to cover the world, but also "we must become sanctified before him." We are not overly impressed with our size or our growth, but we know that it is a circumstance of our development. (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 30 September 1976).

You have embraced the Gospel. How came you to be gathered here in these valleys of the mountains, in this once barren desert? You came from England, from Norway, from Sweden, from the various nations of the earth and from the isles of the sea. How was it that you came here? You reply: An Elder of Israel called. I heard him preach. He told me if I would repent of my sins, I should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I believed him. I went forth and was baptized. I had hands laid upon me for the reception of he Holy Ghost, and I did receive the Holy Ghost. There was no deception about this. I was moved upon to gather with the Saints to the mountains of Israel, that I might stand with them and be taught in the things of the Kingdom of God, that I might stand in holy places while the judgments of God were poured forth in the earth. That is why you are here. We might have preached to you till we had been as old as Methuselah, and if the Almighty had not backed up the testimony of these Elders of Israel, Utah today would be as barren a desert as we found it as far as the Latter-day Saints are concerned. (Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, 6 April 1890; Deseret Weekly, 40 [6 April 1840]: 532-533).

These thousands of missionaries and men who hold the priesthood everywhere are ambassadors of good will, the ultimate purpose of whose service is to change the hearts of men everywhere from selfishness and greed to tolerance, compassion, and brotherhood.

May the heart of every missionary be inspired by the Spirit of his Lord, whose authorized servant he is, to the end that selfishness and violence now so powerful in the world will be replaced by loyal service, truth, and brotherhood. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1949, p. 122). in the world for the world's good. Its missionary system has no other purpose than to bless and benefit. It has no quarrel with the creeds and the sects of the day. It stands for peace, the peace of God "which passeth understanding". It is ever ready to do good in every possible way. (The First Presidency: Heber J. Grant, Charles W. Penrose, Anthony W. Ivins, Liahona: The Elder's Journal, 21:264).

Our work is to promulgate knowledge of God that all who listens may come to know God and thereby put themselves in the way of immortality and eternal life. (Henry D. Moyle, Conference Report, October 1962, p. 89).

I have seen miracles in my time, my brothers and sisters. The greatest miracle of all, I believe, is the transformation that comes into the life of a man or a woman who accepts the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and tries to live it in his or her life. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Vacaville/Santa Rosa California Regional Conference, 21 May 1995).

We are laboring, striving, and struggling for the deliverance of the honest in heart throughout the world; we are laboring for the establishment and continuance of holy principles.

There are men on this stand whose testimony you have heard; and those very men would suffer themselves to be cut in pieces, inch by inch, before they would suffer those principles to be trampled upon. It is their business to make people happy--to put them in possession of eternal life, so that sorrowing and crying may cease from the earth. (Lorenzo Snow, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-Day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 5:324).

Missionaries are sent out to teach repentance to the inhabitants of the earth, that these people may turn from the error of their ways, that they may cleave unto that which is righteous, and thereby gain the favor of our Heavenly Father and enjoy the companionship of his Spirit. (George Albert Smith, Improvement Era, 50:797).

If we do not do our duty in regard to missionary service, then I am convinced that God will hold us responsible for the people we might have saved had we done our duty. (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, [October 1977]: 5).

If you will have your testimonies strengthened, to have it revealed to you now individually that Christ is aiding you in your work, guiding his Church, well the best way to do that is...doing your duty,...attending to missionary work. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1959, 89).

The greatest contribution you can make to mankind in your day will be to help bring about his moral and spiritual regeneration, that in the realm of his own eternal soul he may at least have as much mastery as he has achieved in the material world about him. (Albert E. Bowen, Improvement Era, 40:411).

Our mission to the world is to labor for its redemption from sin, to exalt mankind to the knowledge of God, and bring mankind into the fold of Christ. (Joseph F. Smith, Contributor 12:352).

I remember as I went through the streets of Calcutta, seeing the great numbers of starving people; they were actually starving. I remember being on the fifth floor of a big hotel in Calcutta and looking down on the back street where these people in their meager clothing were lying on the sidewalks, actually lying on the sidewalk with no place to go and nothing to eat, and no shelter. I saw the rain come, and I saw these people move back a little farther under a little shelter. I saw the people in Peru where they have just now had an earthquake. I saw them suffer, and when we were upbraided by one of the press one day for not taking care of all these poor people, "Why did we travel the world and do all these things and did not care for these people," he asked, I said, "That is something you don't understand. If these people would accept the gospel of Christ, the program is provided and they could be taken care of, and their sufferings could be alleviated. They could enjoy reasonable conditions in their homes and in their living."

And that is true, brethren and sisters. In my feeling the gospel is the answer to all the problems of the world, if we go deeply enough and all are united in solving them. And that is why we work harder in missionary work so that we can gradually bring the gospel to all the people, this part of the gospel, as well as their testimonies, the gospel of serving the poor, taking care of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, October 1974, p. 173).

I tell you that God has many noble men in this world that are not Latter-day Saints, and that know nothing about this work that we are engaged in. It is in search of these that the elders are sent out among the nations of the earth from time to time, and these are they who are brought into the fold of Christ when they have the opportunity of hearing the gospel. I have thought that there were still just as good fish in the sea of mankind as had ever been caught by the gospel net. (Joseph F. Smith, "Honest in Heart," Deseret Weekly, [Saturday, 7 January 1892]: 66).

We must love all people and teach them the gospel. To our brothers and sisters of all nationalities: We bear solemn witness and testify that God has spoken in our day and time, that heavenly messengers have been sent, that God has revealed his mind and will to a prophet, Joseph Smith. And, as Andrew beckoned his brother, Simon Peter, to come and hear the Messiah, we say to one and all: “Come and see” (See John 1:35-42).

As our Father loves all his children, we must love all people—-of every race, culture, and nationality—-and teach them the principles of the gospel that they might embrace it and come to a knowledge of the divinity of the Savior. Only they are favored who keep his commandments. (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997, p. 248).

We are engaged in missionary service to testify of the greatest event that has transpired in this world since the resurrection of the Master: The coming of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, to the boy-prophet Joseph Smith. We are sent out to testify of a new volume of scripture, a new witness for Christ. (Ezra Taft Benson, Come Unto Christ, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983, p. 97).

I remember that in revelation after revelation given just before the Church was organized, and in its early day, that men came to the man whom God had chosen as his prophet and asked that he inquire of the Lord what was the most important labor for them Uniformly, the answer came that the greatest and most profitable labor in which they could engage was to bring souls unto a knowledge of the gospel. (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, October 1916, p. 32).

We are called to labor in the fields. We are the Lord's agents. He has sent us forth to reap while the day lasts. He does not fail, nor does his word. If we do the things he expects of us, and which it is in our power to do, we shall reap the promised harvest. (Bruce R. McConkie, "Seven Steps to More and Better Converts," Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 21 June 1975).

I have seen in the season of my apostleship the corps of full-time missionaries grow from 10,000 to approximately 45,000, for an increase of 425 percent, with a comparable growth in missions from 67 to 267, or a 398 percent growth.

Now, these are statistics, not particularly interesting in table form, but tremendously significant in the lives of millions of the sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father who live in 135 nations and territories scattered across the earth where the Church is established.

When I think of these things, I feel like standing and shouting hallelujah. But more appropriately, I feel to kneel and say in humility, thanks be to God and His beloved Son, our Redeemer, for the growth of this Their work, and thanks be to my brothers and sisters, young and old, you who have been faithful and diligent in your duty in causing this to happen. This has been a joyful thing to observe. We now have approximately 60,000 missionaries. Come July, there will be 333 missions. We are trying to fulfill the mandate of the Lord when He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Solemn Responsibilities,” Ensign, November1991]: 49).

Additionally, there are 137,629 volunteers and missionaries in non-proselyting activities. These are, for the most part, mature individuals who contribute their time and talents without compensation of any kind but with a great love for the work of the kingdom. Their united contribution is the equivalent of 15,174 full-time employees with a payroll value of $531,000,000. What a remarkable thing this is. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Work Moves Forward,” Ensign, [May 1999]: 4).

So our missionaries go not out into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through their teachings, might be saved. (Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April 1961, p. 32).

Now somebody also got mixed up and they thought goal was spelled, 'q-u-o-t-a,' and it isn't; that's another word. Now there's a tremendous difference between a goal and a quota. (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 3 April 1974.).

Our religion is one in which we are called upon to show our faith by our works. The Latter-day Saints have shown their faith this way. When they are called upon to go out amongst the nations to preach the gospel, they do not ask how much their pay will be, but they at once commence to regulate their affairs so that they can betake themselves to their mission field and perform the labor required, without any remuneration. . . .They do not go on missions because they like to be away from home, or because they love to ramble around the world, but they go because there is no joy so great as that experienced in devoting oneself entirely to the cause of Christ. And how happy they are to find those who will listen to their words and receive them with honest hearts! They feel then that the Lord is rewarding them for their labors and for the sacrifice they have made in leaving home and loved ones. (Anthon H. Lund, Conference Report, October 1904, pp. 8-9).

"Surely," as one minister said to me in England many years ago, "We don't desire you to come over here to preach; we have all the churches that we can fill." and he said, "We have all the preachers that we can afford to pay. Why do you come over here?" And my answer to him was, "My brother, we are over here without financial remuneration to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the wonderful people who dwell in this part of the world."

He asked, "Why don't you go to the heathens like we do?" And I answered, "We do." He asked, "Where do you go?" And I said, "We come right here."

He looked somewhat annoyed, and I said to him. "Now don't be disturbed, my brother. That isn't intended as an offense at all. There are no finer people in the world than you have here, but what is a heathen anyhow?"

With some hesitation he answered, "Well, a heathen is a man who doesn't believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Jesus Christ."

He dropped his head and said, "Yes, I am sorry to say we have."

Then I said, "Surely you are not going to complain about us if we come over here to help you convert them. You haven't been able to do it, and that is why we are here. We want them all to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ." (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, October 1948, p. 5).

The purpose of the Church missionary system is to preach the gospel to all members of the human race, so that, as far as possible, none may be left with the excuse that he has not heard the gospel.

The Threefold Nature of Missionary Labor [is]:

First: To bear witness of the restoration of the gospel to all the world. This is our first and most important duty. It is the beginning of missionary wisdom. Every proper, effective device may be used for this purpose.

Second: To convert and bring into membership in the Church the honest seekers after truth, who become interested in our message.

Third: To comfort, guide, and instruct, and to keep active and make glad those who have joined the Church, and who, often in the face of temptation and persecution, are striving to use the truths of the gospel in their daily lives.

These three divisions of missionary work really present the three problems of (1) Finding, (2) Converting, (3) Holding. (John A. Widstoe, Priesthood and Church Government, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1936, p. 320).

This work, begun in A.D.33 at the time of the resurrection, was not set on a never-ending sequence.

I read with pleasure of leaders long since gone to eternal fields. There were certainly numerous others there--Enoch and his ancestors, and Adam, and possibly thousands of those generations of righteous leaders and prophets who dwelt among the Nephites. They had all felt to be in bondage.

Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and numerous other choice spirits--Heber C. Kimball, Lorenzo Snow, and possibly others who had helped in the restoration, exodus, and the reconstruction were there.

Beginning with the organization of the Church, specific men were sent into neighboring communities to teach the gospel to their relatives and friends.This was the beginning of the missionary work in this dispensation, and the numbers of missionaries were rapidly increased as many of the nations were approached, and a relatively few converts were made. Now the CALL is for all the people, members of the Church old and young, aged people, middle-aged people, younger people, youth and children, to carry forward this work to the nations. (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 30 September 1977).

We today have been given the responsibility to warn the inhabitants of the earth. The only people who authoritatively can call them to repentance are the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such a call cannot be made without a divine commission, and no other people have this divine commission. We must remember this solemn responsibility and ponder it in our minds and hearts. There is nothing vindictive in our call for repentance. It is a message of salvation and hope, not condemnation. This was true in the Old Testament days of Jonah. It was true in Paul's day, and it is true today. Those who come to know God learn that he is a living and loving God. It has always been so. God does not change. (Marion G. Romney, "Records of Great Worth," Ensign, [September 1980]: 7).

We now have more than 30,000 full-time missionaries and 189 missions, but we are still just scratching the surface of the needs of our Father's other children who dwell upon the earth. Many still hunger and thirst after truth and are kept from it only "because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12.)

There are still more places to go than there are full-time missionaries and organized missions to serve them. There are still millions more being born, living and dying, than are hearing testimonies borne to them by the servants of the Lord. (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 3 October 1980).

A miracle of miracles had taken place. One more was needed. How can the Church grow without missionaries? How can our numbers increase despite an aging population? Beautiful new buildings grace the land: stake centers at Leipzig and Dresden, and chapels in Freiberg and Zwickau, with others to follow, such as a chapel under construction in the city of Plauen. A faithful brother from Plauen wrote me this poignant letter: “My parents and grandparents have served before us in this branch, but never thus far has it been possible to have our own meetinghouse. Now a long-cherished wish is being fulfilled.” After reading this touching account, the thought crossed my mind, “But what use are buildings if there are not sufficient members to occupy them?”

Such was the dilemma uppermost on my mind as my plane landed in Berlin that October afternoon. We went forward with the vital assignment to visit with the leaders of the German Democratic Republic. Our ultimate goal was to seek permission for the doorway of missionary work to open. Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Hans B. Ringger, and I, along with our local German Democratic Republic Church leaders, headed by President Henry Burkhardt, President Frank Apel, and President Manfred Schutze, initially met with State Secretary for Religious Affairs Kurt Löffler as he hosted a lovely luncheon in our honor. He addressed our group by saying, “We want to be helpful to you. We’ve observed you and your people for twenty years. We know you are what you profess to be: honest men and women.”

Government leaders and their wives attended the dedication of a stake center at Dresden and a chapel at Zwickau. As the Saints sang “God be with you till we meet again”—“Auf Wiedersehen, Auf Wiedersehen”—-we remembered Him, the Prince of Peace, who died on the cross at Calvary. I contemplated our Lord and Savior, when He walked the path of pain, the trail of tears, even the road of righteousness. His penetrating declaration came to mind: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.)

Then it was back to Berlin for the crucial meetings with the head of the nation, even Chairman Erich Honecker.

That special morning the sunlight bathed the city of Berlin. It had been raining all night, but now beauty prevailed. We were driven to the chambers of the chief representatives of the government.

Beyond the exquisite entry to the building, we were greeted by Chairman Honecker. We presented to him the statuette First Step, depicting a mother helping her child take its first step toward its father. He was highly pleased with the gift. He then escorted us into his private council room. There, around a large round table, we were seated. Others at the table included Chairman Honecker and his deputies of government.

Chairman Honecker began, “We know members of your Church believe in work; you’ve proven that. We know you believe in the family; you’ve demonstrated that. We know you are good citizens in whatever country you claim as home; we have observed that. The floor is yours. Make your desires known.”

I began, “Chairman Honecker, at the dedication and open house for the temple in Freiberg, 89,890 of your countrymen stood in line, at times up to four hours, frequently in the rain, that they might see a house of God. In the city of Leipzig, at the dedication of the stake center, 12,000 people attended the open house. In the city of Dresden there were 29,000 visitors; in the city of Zwickau, 5,300. And every week of the year 1,500 to 1,800 people visit the temple grounds in the city of Freiberg. They want to know what we believe. We would like to tell them that we believe in honoring and obeying and sustaining the law of the land. We would like to explain our desire to achieve strong family units. These are but two of our beliefs. We cannot answer questions, and we cannot convey our feelings, because we have no missionary representatives here as we do in other countries. The young men and young women whom we would like to have come to your country as missionary representatives would love your nation and your people. More particularly, they would leave an influence with your people which would be ennobling. Then we would like to see young men and young women from your nation who are members of our Church serve as missionary representatives in many nations, such as in America, in Canada, and in a host of others. They will return better prepared to assume positions of responsibility in your land.”

Chairman Honecker then spoke for perhaps thirty minutes, describing his objectives and viewpoints and detailing the progress made by his nation. At length, he smiled and addressed me and the group, saying, “We know you. We trust you. We have had experience with you. Your missionary request is approved.”

My spirit literally soared out of the room. The meeting was concluded. As we left the beautiful government chambers, Elder Russell Nelson turned to me and said, “Notice how the sunshine is penetrating this hall. It’s almost as though our Heavenly Father is saying, ‘I am pleased.’ ”

The black darkness of night had ended. The bright light of day had dawned. The gospel of Jesus Christ would now be carried to the millions of people in that nation. Their questions concerning the Church will be answered, and the Kingdom of God will go forth.

As I reflect on these events, my thoughts turn to the Master’s words, “In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.” (D&C 59:21.) I confess the hand of God in the miraculous events pertaining to the Church in the German Democratic Republic.

The faith and devotion of our members in that nation have not gone unnoticed by God. The excellent service of other General Authorities, Regional Representatives, and mission presidents has been of inestimable help. The understanding cooperation of government leaders is most appreciated. Assignments have been made to the first ten missionaries from the German Democratic Republic to serve abroad; and just three days ago, on Thursday, March 30, the first full-time missionary representatives in exactly fifty years entered the German Democratic Republic. Their mission president was there to greet them. The long period of preparation is past. The future of the Church unfolds. Thanks be to God. (Thomas S. Monson, “Thanks Be to God,” Ensign, [May 1989]: 50).

I testify to you of the truthfulness of these four great points of emphasis on missionary work. First, the sacredness of saving souls and the importance of greatly increasing the number of convert baptisms. Second, the necessity of increasing our own personal faith in order that convert baptisms will increase in a significant and dramatic way. Third, the importance of missionaries prayerfully and with the Spirit setting personal convert baptismal goals. Fourth, the urgency of being actively and productively engaged in member-missionary work in order that the Lord's harvest may be accomplished. (Ezra Taft Benson, "President Kimball's Vision of Missionary Work," Ensign, 15 [July 1985]: 11).

The work of a missionary is everlasting in its consequences. Acceptance of the gospel at the hands of a true and dedicated teacher affects not only the recipient, but also generations who come after the recipient. (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, [May 1983]: 85).

The missionary program is the great, vibrant, pulsating thing that keeps this Church growing and moving and going forward across the world. It is a miracle. It is a miracle beyond the comprehension of most of us. We are from Dan to Beersheba and far beyond in a wonderful, great effort. Between forty-eight and fifty thousand missionaries. Behind every one of them lie a mother’s prayers, a father’s faith, and the love of the people of this Church and the blessing of the Lord upon these His chosen servants. There is nothing like it. . . .

They are out there as servants of the Lord to dedicate all they have of strength and wisdom and means and time to the building of the kingdom of God. Why do they do it? Because they know in their hearts that it’s truth. And that’s the strength of the Church. It is in the hearts of the people, individuals, who can stand and say, as I believe everyone in this congregation can stand and say, “This is the work of God. He lives. Jesus is our Redeemer. They appeared to the boy Joseph. It happened in the grove. The Book of Mormon has come forth as a witness to the world of the living reality of the Son of God, and the priesthood and the Church are upon the earth. We are his servants and his ministers. (Gordon B. Hinckley, East Millcreek 12th Ward Sacrament Meeting, 2 July 1995).